Singapore, 11 July 2012 – Mr Suhaimi Rafdi’s amazing climb to the top of the corporate ladder in a span of 20 years, from behind the counter as a server at a fast food joint to a CEO a decade after joining Cathay Organisation Holdings Limited, has won him the prestigious Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award 2012.
Mr Suhaimi will receive the award tonight at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore from Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.
The annual award, now in its 14th year, is organised by Singapore Press Holdings’ Malay daily, Berita Harian. It honours Malay/Muslim individuals for their achievements in their chosen fields, be it education, business, arts and culture, sports, the professions or social work. The qualities that the judging panel looks for include perseverance, determination, the ability to overcome odds and integrity. Above all, the winner must be a role model for the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore.
The winner of the award was picked by a panel of seven judges from the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore, headed by Mr Wan Hussin Zoohri, former President of LBKM (Prophet Muhammad Birthday Memorial Scholarship Fund Board).
Soon after his National Service, Mr Suhaimi joined fast food restaurant KFC as a Trainee Manager and worked his way up to the position of Restaurant Manager.
He left KFC in 1991, and joined Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as Housekeeping Manager where he managed the housekeeping services with the help of 200 full-time staff, 15 supervisors and three assistant managers to run the operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 1996, Mr Suhaimi joined Cathay Organisation, a leading organisation engaged in the business of entertainment, leisure, lifestyle and property management services. He was made the company’s Assistant General Manager of Cathay Cineplexes, a subsidiary of Cathay Organisation Holdings Limited.
Three years later, Mr Suhaimi was seconded to Penang and assigned to set up multiplexes in Malaysia. In the three years he was working across the Causeway, the now 43-year-old set up three multiplexes in Penang and Johor Bahru. He returned to Singapore in 2001 and set up four other multiplexes here while managing cinema operations in both Singapore and Malaysia.
In 2004, he was made responsible for the operations and marketing functions of eight Cathay Cineplex sites and the acquisition as well as distribution of commercial films on both sides of the Causeway.
Having made a great impression in his role, Mr Suhaimi was promoted to President of Business Operations in 2006 where he was responsible for 21 of Cathay Organisation’s subsidiary companies in Singapore and Malaysia. Later that year, he was assigned to oversee the Corporate Service functions of the organisation, which include human resource, finance, legal, group communications, information technology, internal audit and property & projects divisions.
In January 2008, Mr Suhaimi was promoted to CEO of the Group, overseeing all the business functions with an annual turnover of $200 million.
Mr Suhaimi was also given responsibilities beyond these shores. He was principally involved in the formation of Cathay Organisation’s joint venture partnership with a leading corporation in Dubai. The partnership involves an extensive project in the development, management and operations of cineplexes in the Middle East, North Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Indonesia.
Mr Suhaimi is both father and mother to his four children - two of them adopted - after losing his wife nine years ago to cancer.
His two adopted children were from low-income families. Helping those in need is another passion he shared with his late wife.
This spirit goes beyond helping people. Mr Suhaimi takes care of about 20 abandoned cats in his house and has dozens of cat food stashed in the boot of his car.
Mr Suhaimi’s passion in helping the less fortunate has its origin in his childhood. He started working when he was 16 years old to support himself. He and his three older siblings had a tough childhood, having been brought up by a grand-aunt.
He said: “I am glad I live the life I did, because it taught me the values of hard work. Hard work is what got me where I am today.”
Mr Guntor Sadali, Editor of Berita Harian, said: "He strives to improve himself all the time - a quality that we want the Malay community to have. This has enabled him to move up from just being an ordinary worker at a fast food restaurant to become CEO of a major company - Cathay Organisation. And as CEO, he has played a significant role in helping the company expand globally."
Previous winners of the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award were:
- Dr Mansoor Abdul Jalil, lecturer with the Department of Electrical Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Professor Aziz Nather, director at the Tissue Bank and consultant with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at NUS
- Madam Halimah Yacob, Assistant Secretary General of NTUC
- Mr Iskandar Jalil, master potter
- Mr Iskandar Mirza Ismail, veteran composer
- Haji Abu Bakar Maidin, a veteran of social service
- Mr Zulkifli Baharudin, Chairman of Mercy Relief
- Mr Mardan Mamat, millionaire golfer
- Mr Ashley Isham, fashion designer
- Datuk Mohd Zain Abdullah, accomplished businessman in the shipping industry
- Madam Som Binte Mohamed Said, cultural ambassador
- Mr Shafie Shamsudin, Chief Executive Officer of Carrefour Indonesia, and
- Mohamed Salleh Marican, Chairman and Managing Director of SCP
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